Re: [-empyre-] Networked knowledge?

Does the size of the dots on Marco's map depend on the length of the posts or on their frequency? I think the latter.

Some other possible functions of lists:
-testing grounds for ideas/concepts
-a form of conversation
-a form of play

I will continue to play the devil's advocate... criticizing technology on empyre may appear contradictory, but what the hey. It's better than working, right?

At the beginning, “technology” meant the study of technique (“technique” refers to any defined process allowing the deployment of means for a particular result; these can be simple or complex). Today technology has come to mean techno-science, the integration of technical development with science, and the mutual legitimation of both. We live in a world where the accumulated technical knowledge is astonishing, and yet, we are probably much more lacking in technical know-how than our ancestors: technology can only be created and repaired by *someone else*. In other words, technology means techniques which have escaped from our control. In the rich world, machinery tends to become more and more autonomous from people (the emptying of factories means that the working class has been dispersed, can no longer physically gather together or control the means of production; resistance becomes networked through society).

Even writers who are highly critical of the technological system – like Jacques Ellul or Günther Anders – believe that technology constitutes the destiny of humanity. We live in a world so dominated by technology that no solution to any problem can be other than technological.
It does not matter whether technology is presented as benign and utilitarian, or evil and oppressive: technology is all that there is, all it is possible to conceive. The ideology of technological development and progress constitutes what Pierre Bourdieu calls a “doxa”: a set of beliefs that are assumed to be self-evidently correct and are therefore impossible to question. If part of an artist’s role is to question the dominant narratives of society, then shouldn’t our society’s whole-hearted embrace of technology be questioned? Otherwise everyone ends up singing the same song, however “alternative” or “playful” that song may be.

It is in this context that I asserted that I was opposed to the idea that ICTs should "revolutionarize the whole of social practice". I am not saying we should get rid of them. Obviously the net offers fantastic opportunities... All I am saying is that for me the greatest value is human autonomy; that, as I argued above, technology may be seen as decreasing it, rather than enhancing it; and that therefore there should be areas of social practice where human agency is not mediated by technologies over which it has no control.

DIY: Arts and crafts? Cabinet-making? Pottery? MACRAME? OK, bring on the last upgrade already.

Charlotte - sorry I didn't really address any of the new points you brought up... Another feature of lists: there is no way to ensure that a point will be picked up by a respondent - the only option would be to keep posting over and over.


On 10/08/2004, at 7:47 AM, Charlotte Frost wrote:

I will hide my disappointment at not being included on Marcos' map, perhaps
because I fell off line for my day job and he wasn't mapping right from the
start?! I will try not to see it as a gender issue ;-) as other women are
present, although I see Nancy is missing too! But of course Sue's points
might be illustrated by Jim sitting right in the middle of everybody! ;-)
But as I have rushed in late each night, and read each post and made notes
on points I was interested to advance, it feels kind of sad not to make the
grade! ;-)

So if I don't register, is list participation about what registers for me?

If so, I must take issue with Mathieu who argued against the notion that
'ICT must necessarily revolutionarize the whole of social practice', which I
am sure wasn't what I was suggesting, but as an art historian, I am hoping,
in fact basing my PhD on the idea that net art practice does offer a model
by which we can continue to make adjustments to - if not entirely recreate -
the discipline of the history of art. Where he stated that he is 'actively
opposed to that notion', I would posit myself as someone willing to look at
the social evolutions that will inevitably occur, and if computers are our
prostheses, our tools for social practice, there surely will be change.

As far as questions regarding the use and citing of lists are concerned,
this again is something I am witnessing a change in, because the very notion
of creating a PhD thesis on paper is opposed to the nature of archive I am
studying. I realize that 'it's the norm to attribute quotes precisely' and
like the good student I am, I do, but the citation system itself, in the
light of hypertext and threaded debate seems an inadequate, if conflicting
method by which to deal with such networked data. And I guess this is my
point, academia uses systems which categorize and delineate, but the systems
of knowledge we are using online are hybrid and actively evade such
categories or archives.

I am interested therefore in Axel's notion of the list as a discipline. And
this is something I wanted to lead towards with my initial discussion of how
researchers use lists. Josie Berry Slater from Mute magazine whose
impressive PhD can be found at used the
nettime mailing list to publish chapters and ideas, making her research
process utterly networked. I wonder if a thesis conducted in this way works
better in relation to the subject, if it is more synchronous, or whether
synchronicity matters? I wonder if my thesis is your responsibility too? ;-)

Likewise, having made notes on previous posts and attempted to understand
people's ideas in relation to my own, I have begun my own 'more disciplined,
regular engagement', as Axel calls it. And I have observed list contributors
on many of the lists who offer an additional skill of 'feeding' lists with
fresh fodder. Some people appear to have impressive skills in trawling the
net, digesting information and passing it on the appropriate sources. I have
always found Marc Garrett, who is often vocal on Rhizome and netbehaviour
particularly good at this, supplying links to articles, news stories and
information that conceptually relate to wider discursive threads.

I wonder if this is the emergence of the type of knowledge that centres on
the intimate understanding of links and systems rather than necessarily all
the information supplied within the nodes of the links or systems. In an
essay called "Pulling Down" Books vs. ' "Pulling Up Files" : textual
databanks and the changing culture of classical scholarship' - in Susan
Leigh Star (eds) The Cultures of Computing - Karen Ruhleder notes that with
electronic indexing, to create keywords and search criteria, scholars less
and less have knowledge of entire texts, but more so the topography of the
area. They know about links, the passages that can exist between
information, and have adept skill at tracing such links, but increasingly
the knowledge of such links takes precedent over those who can divulge
massive amounts of text.

Is the ability to serve a list a skill in itself, and if so, is it one that
requires cultivation?

Is this sort of praxis a truly networked knowledge?

And if the knowledge of 'links' is fast becoming a revered knowledge in
itself, are Marcos' maps more important than the content of the list? - of
course not, but do they tell us about the way in which knowledge is

And if we increase the tools we use at such a pace, is Jim's quest for
better software an inevitable requirement? Jim's musings on whether lists
offer enough rooms/folders for the expansion of debates might be illustrated
by this email, because rather than answer each email individually, I am
attempting to enfold all my responses into one email...which might prove
harder than I think!

Likewise, if I refer to everyone in one email, but they don't in turn reply
to me, will I still be isolated from the network, as per Marcos' diagram?

I met Jim recently and we discussed the very issues he has raised here,
about the tech-side of list encouragement/advancement, and I have a project
too embryonic to submit for critique yet, relating to the gaps in service
the list serve creates.

At the moment, there seem to be a lot of artworks relating to, or based
around blogs, but still so few that look at the mailing list. When I made my
selection on lists for I found firstly that it is
hard to find what lists are out there. I asked for people to tell me all the
lists they could think of on various lists, and received VERY few answers,
and when I went looking for list related art/research projects, I found only
the ones I knew of already. So there seems to me such huge scope for work in
this area.

I also feel that we might be overlooking the fact that lists generate the
artworks to which they pertain and that this as Axel notes, makes it
impossible to view them in isolation. Firstly many projects come about
through list interaction. Christina Ray from Glowlab tells me that the
Conflux was originated in this way, and Lewis LaCook's (possibly dormant)
Screenburn produced several collaborative projects, but more than this even,
I have suggested elsewhere that in the absence of physical institutions with
which to validate art, text, and perhaps more precisely lists, become the
default validation system, perhaps the art gallery of the internet. With
this in mind I feel we have to start making decisions on whether to advance
the software and safeguard the archive or whether the dynamics of the list,
such as they are, are merely characteristics of this type of practice, and
whether a knowledge of the network will suffice?


empyre forum

Mathieu O'Neil
Visiting Fellow
Centre for New Media Arts
The Australian National University
Canberra ACT 0200
T 61 2 62 60 61 24

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